Friday, May 15, 2015

Where Storytellers Come From. CAL Awards.

Chandler Girls Baseball Team 1939 - 1942?

My mother, Emma (Ermila), was born in 1927 in the mining town of Chandler, Colorado. She grew up in a place that no longer exists, literally and figuratively. When the mine closed (1942), the town died and the miners and their families scattered to other mining towns, other jobs, other ways of life. My grandparents and their nine children eventually landed in Florence, Colorado, where I was born. The changes they experienced were part of an historic demographic shift in the United States at the beginning of and during World War II, but for them it was just another move necessary to follow work and, thus, to survive.

I never thought of my mother as a storyteller. Yet, when I reflect on it now, I realize that our conversations and, recently, her visits with her ninety-five year old sister, are filled with stories and tales -- she just doesn't present them as such.

Filomena and Manuel Sarmiento
The night her father (Manuel Sarmiento - a great storyteller in his own right) played poker with the devil, protected his family from the ghost at the big rock near the Chandler town limits, had a shoot-out with a rival, or rode with Pancho Villa -- all are simply parts of her life that she retells matter-of-factly and without elaboration. I remember hearing in the 1950s about La Llorona, the weeping woman, from my mother -- not as a story, more like a news report of what was actually going on down by the river where all the commotion took place.

In the same manner, I learned that my grandmother (Filomena) married my grandfather at age sixteen, that she was on a first-name basis with a bruja or two, and was known to conjure her own cures and curses when appropriate.

For my mother, life has been filled with magic, or maybe magical realism.

She often returns to reminisces of the baseball team that was organized for the young girls of Chandler.  She recalls how the team traveled to Pueblo, Canon City, Rockvale, and Florence to play other teams. She brags that the "Chandler girls" were all-stars and tough cookies. I believe it since I have known her all my life. My mother and her sister were on the team that was made up of coal miners' daughters -- that had to be unique. I wonder if this bit of Colorado history -- a traveling girls' baseball team from a mining town in the 1930s organized by a Mexican miner (Juan Torres) -- is remembered by anyone other than my mother and her sister?

Today my mother's memory is fading and she repeats herself. But she lights up when she gets together with her sister and they start in about the baseball team, or Chandler, or their immediate family, most of whom are long gone. I listen to my mother and try to hold on to her stories, my family's history, even though she would never say that she is a storyteller.

[a shorter version of this appeared in the Denver Post on Mother's Day, 2015.]

Colorado Authors' League Award Banquet (May 8)

Lydia Gil at Colorado Authors' League Award Banquet

Congratulations and felicitaciones to La Bloga contributor Lydia Gil.  Her excellent book, Letters from Heaven (Arte Público Press), won the Colorado Authors' League (CAL) 2015 award for Best Children's Book. Letters From Heaven is also a finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the International Latino Book Awards.  Way to go, Lydia!

Pauline Victoria Martinez

And congrats to Pauline Victoria Martinez, Coordinator of Adams State University's (Alamosa, CO) Women's Week, for winning a CAL scholarship to help her continue with her research, advocacy, and writing about and for the people, especially the women, of Colorado's San Luis Valley.

Lydia and Manuel at CAL Banquet


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